Above – Yvette Turner and Sorab Kaikobad. Photo – Cameron Grant.

Prepare to enter a world of absolute chaos with Hearth Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps. Based on John Buchan’s novel that was adapted into Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 spy film of the same name, The 39 Steps is edge-of-your-seat-slapstick-fun.

The latest incarnation of the parody play written by Patrick Barlow has received enormous success worldwide. In 2015 The 39 Steps became the fifth longest running play on the West End in addition to winning a swag of awards including the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and Tony Awards for both lighting and sound design in 2008.

With accolades like this, it would be daunting to take on such a beloved production, but as Hearth Theatre proved in 2023 with their production of Death of a Salesman, the classics are an exciting challenge. And what a challenge! The play written for four people is a full-on action-packed adventure from the get-go. The actors must play a plethora of characters, sometimes (literally) wearing multiple hats and transforming in seconds. Audience’s are required to completely suspend all disbelief and immerse themselves in the wonderful nonsense happening on stage.

The actors break the fourth wall with reckless abandon, in a manner that lets you in on the action without it becoming tiresome. Sorab Kaikobad plays the hapless Richard Hannay, unwillingly dragged into a covert mission with an underground spy group known as the 39 steps. His ‘straight man’ role is complemented by the Clowns (Charlie Cousins and Jackson McGovern) who play so many characters I lost count, all with individual quirks to distinguish them. The pure comedy of the Clowns is utterly delightful, both Cousins and McGovern are incredibly adept performers able to command an audience or cause riotous laughter with their physical comedy.

Yvette Turner completes the cast of four, taking on a minimum of three roles that range from femme fatale to prim and proper. She is endearing as love interest Margaret, her characters’ hate-to-love relationship with Hannay reading organically.

Crammed with story and slapstick, The 39 Steps is a fuss-free night of pure escapism at the theatre. There are Hitchcock in-jokes for the movie buffs, laugh out loud comedy and brilliant performances from the entire cast. Along with the gorgeous set and 1930s costume design, it’s easy to understand why this play has had such longevity, it’s both caught in a time capsule and timeless.

Event details

Hearth Theatre presents
The 39 Steps
by Patrick Barlow

Director Charlie Cousins

Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street Prahran VIC
Dates: 8 – 17 March 2024
Tickets: $35 – $59
Bookings: https://chapeloffchapel.com.au

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